A Game… Under a Psychedelic Sun in a Tangerine Sky: An Excerpt

I felt my heart rate and respiration jump.  At least I hadn’t screamed.  I need to get up…wait, “What the….”  In the morning light escaping around the pulled blinds, I saw nothing that looked familiar.  I was in a king-sized bed in what appeared to be in an old-fashioned bedroom complete with a patchwork quilt, wainscoted walls, a dry sink with pitcher and bowl.  Heavily stuffed chairs resembled prehistoric animals gazing at me from the corners.  Glancing at the other side of the bed, I saw it had not been slept in…”What the f….”

“Okay I get it, it’s a dream within a dream.  I only think I’m awake.  The scene is too real.  If this is a dream within a dream, why do I feel the urge to pee?”

As I stood over the urinal, I noticed something was wrong…well…different.  The lower body I looked at didn’t resemble mine in the least nor did the dragon I was draining.  Short, thick legs were now long and slender, bowling ball sized calves replaced with long, supple, athletic ones. The “over Sixty” paunch I worked so hard and failed to eliminate was gone, replaced by toned abs and a chest covered in dark, curly hair.

Turning on the light at the bathroom sink, the mirror reflected a face and upper body that wasn’t mine.  Looking back at me, mimicking my every move was Tom Selleck.  Not the Blue Bloods or Jesse Stone Tom Selleck, the Magnum P.I. Tom Selleck.  The shaggy dark hair and matching mustache, dimples that deepened like the Grand Canyon when I smiled Tom Selleck.  “Man, what a dream.”  Dipping my head a bit and angling it to the side, my face became the winking Tom Selleck’s.

The body didn’t feel like mine either.  I usually groaned when I got out of bed.  The body I looked at in the mirror didn’t ache at all.  Locking my knees, I bent and reached toward my toes…“Man, what a dream.”

Looking around the room, my gaze fell on the armoire that housed a television set above its pullout drawers.  A folded notecard made from expensive stock sat to one side of the TV, a remote to the other.  Picking up the notecard, I felt chills chase themselves up and down my spine, ‘Welcome to Pearly Gates Bed and Breakfast,’ was embossed in gold on the front. The inside also etched in gold, welcomed me. ‘We hope to make your transition enjoyable and stress-free.’  It was signed, Petra Saint, Proprietor.  I pondered…”I’m missing something.”

A gentle knock to my door brought me back to the here and now, where ever the here and now was.

***

Through the peephole, I saw a shapely petite woman with a clear, coffee and cream complexion and short blue-black hair.  She tapped a pen against a clipboard before placing it under her arm and straightening her clothes.  The woman had an “all business” look on her a pretty face.  A familiar silhouette stood on shapely, well-formed legs, displayed in a black leather skirt.  Black moderately heeled pumps made her calf muscles stand out.  A matching leather jacket covered a blazing white blouse with a moderate neckline covered in frills.

I recognized her.  I had watched her on TV the night before as I fell asleep, Tamron Hall on the ID Channel.  I kept the TV on to blot out the sounds buzzing in my ears…except my ears were no longer buzzing.

An excerpt from the short story


The short story A Game… Under a Psychedelic Sun in a Tangerine Sky may be downloaded at https://www.amazon.com/dp/B07Q18P2NQ

Don Miller’s Author’s page may be accessed at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Psychedelic Baseball under Tangerine Skies…

 

A tangerine sky had been painted above an old textile baseball field.  Above the bleachers and avocado green grandstand, a child’s hand-drawn clouds chased each other around a hippie-inspired sun of brilliant yellows and oranges.  Old Sol featured a smiling, female face with almond shaped, green-blue eyes.

A stiff breeze blew out to right field but clouds seemed to move in any direction they wished.  The US flag, in vivid colors I didn’t recognize, and pennants in mauve, purple and gold, snapped and popped as the wind swirled.  A pink, blue and green, paisley print flamingo soared above the thermals, riding the wind…high, higher, highest.

Wooden bleachers built when Methuselah was a child, were weathered to a gray patina, the boards rough, warped and twisted.  The roof of the old grandstand was rotted with jagged holes allowing bright sunshine to leak through, highlighting men in white dress shirts, sleeves rolled up above their elbows, their fedoras pushed back on their heads.  I saw them in black, white and gray, as if from an old newsreel.

The one women I saw was surrounded by pastel colors from a Monet painting as she strolled on boardwalks that shouldn’t have been in a ballpark.  Twirling her parasol, she strolled by in a long-sleeved and high necked dress.  The hem of the ethereal gown, lacy in pinkish beige, swept the old boards of the esplanade.

Her gaze was distant and pensive under hair piled high and restrained by a straw boater. The flat brimmed hat was pushed forward at a jaunty angle to accommodate her dark brown tresses but her stare was anything but gleeful.

Watching from my vantage point in my head I wondered how she could sit wearing such a large bustle and how she could stand the corset that made her waist so small.

The field was of dark green, perfectly maintained grass…grass marred with red clay and sand baselines and infield cutout.  Sharp white lines were arrow straight and ran toward the infinity of the outfield foul posts.  Sack bases gleamed in the technicolor sunshine as a ground crew finished the field with earth movers and bulldozers.

It wasn’t an LSD trip, just a dream…a dream that featured a heavenly figure dressed in Yankee pinstripes and a Satan in tie-dye.  God was a midget who looked like Yogi Berra, Satan could be no one else other than Billy Martin.  Martin glared at me from behind dark sunglasses his cigarette smoke twisting and turning, rising into the tangerine sky.  He held up a martini glass in an empty salute…as empty as the glass itself.

I was playing right field…I think it was me.  I looked like Tom Selleck in Mr. Baseball and I openly wondered why Babe Ruth or Roger Maris wasn’t available.  Yogi said Maris was on a mountain top contemplating the asterisk after the number sixty-one in the “Good Book”.  Ruth was holding court in street clothes, smoking a cigar while drinking a beer and eating a hotdog.  A high school chum was there too but he looked more like Thurmond Munson than the friend I remembered from fifty years ago.

I don’t normally dream so vividly.  I blame it on a sinus infection, the drugs that treat it and the left-over quesadillas my wife brought me after her luncheon with a friend.  There is something about cilantro that sometimes fuels my more psychedelic dreams.  Cheaper and less dangerous than peyote or hallucinogenic mushrooms, not that I really know.

I had died in my dream, the casualty of a falling treetop and found myself in a heaven of my own creation.  No blazing white mansions or streets of gold.  No old, bearded white men in long gowns, No call to a warm and embracing light. Just a perfectly laid out baseball field and hot dogs to die for, an all-star team of dead Yankees playing an all-star team of devil’s minions.  Both teams cheered on by men in a black and white newsreel and a woman in pastels.  The call was to the Big Leagues not into the light.

It seemed I had awakened from one dream into another, my death from being shish kebabed by a treetop to a heavenly baseball game.  Speaking in cliches, Yogi told me the game was being played for all the marbles, good versus evil, winner takes all.   As I jogged to right field he growled, “Don’t forget!  It gets late early out there.”

Though I desperately tried to stay asleep, my dream ended before the game was decided.  With the game tied and a runner on second in the ninth, Ty Cobb stepped to the plate, or a devil’s imp appearing to be Ty Cobb.  Depending on whose history you read, in real life, he might have been the devil incarnate.  Razor sharp cleats glinted in the tangerine light as he taped the dirt off them with his bat.  Watching him step into the batter’s box,  I awoke as a puppy dog pawed me, blind eyes saying “Open the door, I need to potty.”

I don’t normally remember dreams but this one was just too vivid, just too real…just too troubling  This one I want to remember despite the fear I felt in the pit of my stomach.  It’s too good of a subject for a short story and I can end it any way I wish.

I need to remember it today because my plans were to cut down the dead tree that killed the dream me.  I think I will let Mother Nature do her part and cut it up after it falls.

The image I used is TANGERINE SKY by Fran Slade.  It may be purchased at https://artpublish.glopal.com

Books by Don Miller may be purchased at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

Kaleidoscope Eyes

 

I’ve never been on a trip in my life…a drug trip.  I’ve abused alcohol on occasion, made a road trip or a dozen, but I’ve never dropped a tab of acid.  For some reason, my mind is broken, and I now understand the description kaleidoscope eyes despite mine not being drug induced.  Unlike the lyrics from the old Beatle’s song, there were no “tangerine trees and marmalade skies.”  My scrambled and flaring neurons fired in black and white.  It was just a damn dream!

I slept in my recliner.  Upright to offset the post nasal drip exacerbated by our extended ragweed season and the sudden change from a long summer to the late arrival of fall.  Undoubtedly my location confused my blind and aging puppy and sent me down a path that didn’t include “cellophane flowers of yellow and green”.  It bewildered me just as badly as any of the lyrics from Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds.

Tilly pawed me awake begging for attention, a treat or both.  The thirteen-year-old would not be quieted until she received her puppy treat and an extended belly rub while lying on her back on my lap.  Finally satiated and bored, she left me for her mommy’s side.  I looked at my watch and found it to be just a bit after three…maybe it was a little after three, now I’m not sure…of the time or the blind puppy dog receiving a tummy rub.  Did that really happen?

I tried to return to sleep, my mind misfiring, sparking like an electrical short.  My thoughts were on our aging puppies, their aging owners and friends I have lost or are losing and not on “the girl with the sun in her eyes”.

When you’re sixty-eight thoughts of your own mortality lurk nearby, no matter how much you try to push it out of your mind.  There are fewer sands in the hourglass.  I don’t dwell on those thoughts but they tend to explode unexpectedly.  I pushed them aside, and they shoved back…hard.  My thoughts seemed to be on a repeating loop, a loop flashing from scene to scene, person to person, my own version of Dante’s Inferno on rewind.

After fifteen minutes of futility, I decided I was beating a dead mule when it came to sleeping.  I needed to get up and be productive or read or watch TV…something to remove the broken kaleidoscope in my mind or at least shade the sparking.  Looking at my watch my scalp crawled.  My loop had not lasted fifteen minutes, it had lasted over two hours.  Every timepiece in my house told me the same thing, two hours had passed.

According to my newest technological marvel, my Fitbit, I had never been awake.  I don’t know which is worse, a lost two hours or living a dream so real it doesn’t seem to be a dream.  Was my puppy even there?

The dream has been lost.  It’s memory rendered like a wind-torn fog.  If it is truly gone why am I still under its influence.  A four-mile walk and a church service later I am self-medicating with a beer…or five.  Maybe I should just listen to Judy in Disguise.  The words make no better sense than my dream or the old Beatle’s tune…but it does seem to be a happier song.

The image is  from Deviant Art at https://www.deviantart.com/ninjahekla/art/Kaleidoscope-Eyes-114938033

For other gentle musings go to Don Miller’s author’s page at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

 

Pigeons from Nowhere?

 

I awoke terrified, unable to breathe…not quite true.  Once I realized where I was, I also realized I was holding my breath and was more than a little congested.  Because of my allergies, I was sleeping upright in my recliner and had had the “DREAM”.  Thank goodness I had not awakened the house screaming.  Seeing puppy dog Tilly looking at me made me wonder if that had been the case.  At least there was no movement upstairs.

My first lucid thought was of an old “THRILLER” episode from the Sixties…the early Sixties.  June of 1961 to be exact.  When it comes to exactness, I might be a bit anal retentive, so I looked it up.  I would have been a month or so past my eleventh birthday when I watched “Pigeons from Hell”, adapted from a short story written by Robert E. Howard in 1934.  THRILLER was hosted by Boris Karloff of “FRANKENSTEIN” fame and I could hear his distinctive lisp echoing in my head.

My first lucid thought is always about “Pigeons from Hell” after the dream.  A car stuck in the mud on a lonely, Southern road.  A bright, darkness casting scary shadows as two young brothers approach an old mansion surrounded by pigeons.  A decision to spend the night that leads to a hatchet splitting the skull of one…I won’t bore you…but if you are interested you can YouTube the old black and white episode…I did.  Despite its age and knowing the outcome, it is still quite good.

I won’t bore you because my dream has nothing to do with pigeons from anywhere, hatchets splitting skulls or being stuck in the mud…there are close friends who might disagree with the last assertion.  Instead, I will bore you with my dream…my terrifying, very mundane dream.  An old mansion that I have lost…somewhere in the fog time and the fog obscuring the dream.

In this dream, reoccurring since entering early adult life, I’m lying on the steps outside an old mansion.  A mansion I am quite familiar with for reasons I don’t understand.  The faded-white, lap boarded mansion is being renovated, I clearly see the spider webbing of scaffolding along the sides of the two-story building.  Above me, between the ivy-covered columns is a sign.  It flutters slightly in the breeze, fog swirling about it, obscuring its message…a message I know I don’t want to read.  Why?  I have no idea, I just know I don’t.

As if being levitated, I move closer to the sign, it’s message becoming clearer, and am filled with fear…no I’m terrified despite knowing “it is just a dream” and begin to scream myself awake.  So far, I’ve been successful, I’ve never read the sign.  I’ve also been successful scaring the bejesus out of my wife as I transition from screaming in my head to screaming out loud.

I knew exactly where that old mansion was.  I knew I had ridden by it dozens of times it seemed, the memory etched sharply in my remembrances.  On a trip home during the decade of my twenties, I decided to look at the renovations and drove to where I knew the mansion was…but it wasn’t.  I drove around searching, my mind in turmoil.  It is not where I knew it to be on a street corner occupied by a small cottage, my heart sinking into my feet.

The dream has taken on a new spirit, the mansion my “holy grail.”  Every time I have the dream I rack my memories trying to figure out where the mansion exists…other than in my mind.  The memory is just too clear to be a dream…and what of the dream?  What does it mean?  What might Freud have said?  If “sometimes a cigar is just a cigar”, a dream is but a dream?  The dream is just too real…but then so was “Pigeons from Hell” when I watched it in 1961.

I wonder if I will ever understand it…will I ever read the letters etched on the swinging board?  My adult brain tells me I will never find the mansion in my dreams and for some reason, I am saddened.  A sense of loss?  Maybe that is the message in the dream.

Further insights into Don Miller’s craziness may be found at https://www.amazon.com/Don-Miller/e/B018IT38GM

If you are interested in “Pigeon’s from Hell” the following link will get you there.

IT’S THE WHAT?

The face looking back at me from the mirror is almost unrecognizable. Tiger Wood’s most recent mug shot is a glamorous compared to what I see. I wish I could blame it on poor lighting…OR A MONTH-LONG BINGE. Gray and strained, my watery and bloodshot eyes belie the fact I rested a full eight hours…rested? I slept for a full eight hours, awakening not to relieve my bladder but from strange dreams. Every hour and a half I awoke to wonder…where did they, the dreams and the people in them, come from and why do they haunt me so? As I contemplated my dreams I fell into another dream tossed slumber only to awaken and begin the process over again. A bizarre “Groundhog Day?”

The dreams are surreal. Picasso and Dali would be pleased. They are in technicolor with disjointed bits of brilliant color reminding me of light shining through a broken kaleidoscope…or maybe an LSD driven trip. Nothing quite fits, they are not nightmares, simply the misfiring’s of a troubled brain. People from my past involved in situations from my past…but situations they had no part in during the waking hours when the friends and situations were real.

I have had nine months of personal hell. Drugs and muscle relaxers to “NOT” relieve sciatica pain, antibiotics that have not cured a sinus infection and the resulting salivary gland infection. Then the shingles on top of it all. More drugs, some are “self-prescribed” for my own self-medication…none very effective. I try to tell myself it could be worse. It could be chemo or radiation…it could be “knock, knock, knocking on heaven’s door.” It is still my own personal hell and everything is relative including “death by a thousand paper cuts.”

The blisters are healing but the pain is still there, radiating from around my right eye to the forehead and scalp above. Every night when I attempt to sleep the fiery pain is an unwanted bed partner and every morning when I awake it’s there to remind me of the day to come. My scalp seems to want to crawl off my skull.

How can I be so tired, I slept for eight hours? The dreams, it must be the dreams. I haven’t exercised in a month; my back yard is on its way to becoming unreclaimable. An hour and a half of garden weed pulling left me spent and trembling. I struggle to my recliner. I grow tired from contemplating it. At least when I doze during the day there are no dreams…sometimes.

I have weened myself off the drugs. The steroids and Valtrex have run their course along with the antibiotics. I fear my addictive self even though I doubt Alka Seltzer Cold Plus is addictive. I also wonder why it seems only a cold medication takes the edge off the pain when the called for Advil doesn’t remotely affect it? I have leftover hydrocodone from…I don’t remember. It is a good thing to have leftover hydrocodone I guess but I know it’s there… behind the closed counter drawer… calling to me late into the day. So far, I have not heeded the siren’s call…so far.

The shingles. How innocent they sound. I survived a heart attack, walking through a glass door, a chainsaw to the face…and a thousand paper cuts. I thought I was so tough. I would not wish this on my worst enemy.

For stories or essays of better days take a little time and go to Don Miller’s Author Page at https://www.amazon.com/-/e/B018IT38GM